#1stdraftdiary – Week 1 (0-14,000)

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Mood lighting 🙂

This is an easier week than usual, because I’ve taken a week’s leave from freelancing. I have a chest infection that’s slowing me down a little, and it’s just two weeks since I delivered the proofs of The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2. Also, I’m just back from Listowel Writers’ Week, as well as my Caramel Hearts launch in Dublin, so my energy is low – but time doesn’t stand still and it’s time to get cracking on The Book of Revenge – Nine Lives Trilogy 3! It’s due to publishers on October 31st & I’ll need it to be on at least draft 3 or 4 by then. Here goes…

#1stdraftdiary Day 1: Some words are stolen from deleted scenes from Book 2 (approx 300). Today was a real slog – it was difficult to switch off from the publication & (double) launch of Caramel Hearts, so it felt like I was connecting back with the characters and little more than that. Probably the hardest day of writing yet – and this is my fourth book so I didn’t expect that! Instead of feeling pleased that I’ve started, the day ended feeling rather glum. Word count: 2012

#1stdraftdiary Day 2: I decamp to a friend’s house for a change of scenery as a pick me up. She’s an artist and works with music on somewhere else in the house and I make an important discovery – I can work with music on if it’s not in the same room! This isn’t particularly relevant for me on a day-to-day basis because I live in a mobile home, so everything sounds like it’s in the same room! But it’s a discovery all the same. The change of walls, desk, light works and I manage to get a great word count down. I know that these are all the wrong words and usually I don’t care – but this time, I’m unsettled. As I close my computer down, I realise where I should have started and know I have to start again. I don’t usually do this, but the book is due September 30th & there isn’t much room for mistakes so I delete a whole chapter. Word count: 4521

#1stdraftdiary Day 3: And start again! But the day is warm and muggy and promising sun, and it’s calling to me. I walk the dog six miles instead of the usual three before it gets too hot. An essay I want to write keeps bugging me, so I decide to think about this when I’m walking, and then concentrate on my first draft when I am stationary. It works! The essay begins to form and then I sit at the water’s edge half way through the walk, writing more of my book using notebook and pen, moving now and again to avoid a pair of territorial swans. When I return home, I write up my thoughts on the essay, then type up the book. Because I started again (something I don’t usually do), I’ve gone backwards – this puts me 1500 words behind schedule. Word count: 3500

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7,200 words!!!

#1stdraftdiary Day 4: I finally connect with my old way of working. Thanks to a brief conversation with Celine Kiernan on twitter, I realise that the start has been slow because I know the characters (this is book 3 after all!!) so I’m automatically editing and criticizing, when usually I let these things go and write freely, without the little nagging voice. And so, I force that voice to switch off and gallop on, feeling much happier with the actual writing part! End of day, I’ve caught up a bit; still 800 words behind schedule but it’s early days and certainly nothing to worry about – plenty of time to catch up. Word count: 7200 

 

#1stdraftdiary Day 5: Woke up in a mild panic. The garden had to take priority, meaning a trip to Bantry to buy plants, then weeding the beds and planting before any work can get started. By 4.30, I still have 30 minutes of garden watering to do and no writing. Beating myself up severely about this for several hours of the day, but when I finally get to sit down, the words flow quite happily and I realise what a pain I’ve been to myself all day. Feeling rather joyous when I shut the computer down. Word count: 9100

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#1stdraftdiary Day 6: A great day in terms of word count: I catch up and get ahead of myself. However, I had to cancel a street party with a friend, and also abandon the dog to my husband for the day to make it. I’m finding that #1stdraftdiary is revealing plenty to me about the way I work and also, all the ups and downs. I hadn’t actually realised what a daily rollercoaster it is! I’m also receiving messages from other writers saying the project is inspiring them to get started / making them feel better about their own process / interesting to read. That makes it even more worthwhile. However, I may have overdone it as my mood plummets once the writing stops and that inner voice I’ve been silencing comes out in full force… (You didn’t walk, you lazy so and so. You didn’t give the dog enough attention. Did you do anything nice for anyone else today? Why haven’t you joined this, done that – who are you trying to kid? Etc etc until I distract myself with Western films). Word count: 12,700

#1stdraftdiary Day 7: The promise of an afternoon walk with my husband and dog in one of my favourite spots, Glengarriff woods, gets me up and at it early today, with my word count achieved by 12.30pm. And that’s it on until tomorrow – just a couple of interviews to finish and this blog post, and I’m done for this week! Word count: 14,100

Other achievements this week (like I say, it’s a quiet week):

  • 3 miles walk daily (except Day 5)
  • Newspaper pitches x2 – both accepted
  • Essay notes: 8 pages A4 (happy about this – wasn’t expecting it to sneak in!)
  • Updated invoices, chased unpaid invoices, updated expenses (phew! Relief!)
  • One online interview completed and sent
  • Hay bales brought in (251 in total)
  • Planted fennel, lettuce, kale, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, spinach, mint, sage, rosemary – almost cleared a wild patch but saw bees feeding on the buttercups and felt I should leave it until winter.
  • Travel for Belfast organised (this consists of a walk, a bus, and two trains each way – takes a bit of thought)
  • #1stdraftdiary project started
  • 2 blog posts written/posted
  • Social media for writing.ie

Summary: word count on track, enjoyment of writing process back up to speed, that feeling of being a fraud still niggling but being ignored – looking forward to a new week that includes four nights & three/four events (schools, bookshop & fun day marquee) at Belfast Book Festival.

happy students

A poem about worries by students of Singing Kites, Cambodia

Another great piece of work by students at Singing Kites – and once again, their first ever poem in English.

I’m so very proud of them – well done girls! (The boys in the photo are their friends; they liked to visit and chat and they were all such great company)

happy students

The girls that wrote the poem, Our Worries

 

Our Worries

I worry…

about my exams and if I will fail,

if I’m absent from school then my study isn’t good enough,

about my eyes because I always use the computer on the weekend,

that my brain gets tired when I study so much,

when I go home at night, my bicycle will get broken,

about riding my motorbike on the road in case there is an accident

I will hear ghosts in the dark,

that when I go home there is no rice and I’ll be hungry,

for my brother in Korea because he is working with machines – it is very dangerous,

about not having money because I cannot study or buy things like leashal*,

that I make mistakes every day,

about not having enough water and the world getting hotter,

my face and skin is not white enough.

 

by Raksmey, Theary, Kaknika, Kanha, Lengheang

*Leashal are tiny clams, covered in salt and chilli and cooked in the sun. The shells do not open; you have to use your teeth. Very delicious. See below!

food cambodia

These are the delicious clams

Looking for writing advice? (Part 1)


Over the last month I’ve received over forty emails/tweets/messages asking for advice on writing. This is a pretty high number – and more than I’ve received before in such a short space of time – so I’m guessing there’s something in the air that’s making people feel extra frustrated/blank/exhausted/lost.

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Although I’m hardly an oracle, I love that people feel they can come to me and that I can help in some way. It’s a real honour and a pleasure every time. But I suspect that for every writer that manages to ask another for support, there are several others struggling with aspects of their writing career suffering in silence.

I know that I’ve relied on other writers to vent frustrations, ask advice, get a second opinion. But I also know that I’ve worried/stressed/suffered in silence from time to time. I can’t say why exactly – I don’t know why but sometimes, that’s just the way it is. I’m guessing fear is probably the culprit. Fear of failure, of success, of *insert worry here*.

So, in an attempt to help anyone that’s feeling a bit lost but doesn’t know where to turn, I’ve compiled a list of my most popular posts – the ones that seem to be helping people most with the questions/difficulties they’re facing – below. I hope they help.

  • For the love of writing, keep going! – a look at overcoming the feeling of failure by enjoying what we do.
  • The Wolf We Feed – a post about taking responsibility for our writing and writing career.
  • Is your routine good enough? – drawing on other writers’ experiences, this post considers how we write, whether it gives the results we’re looking for and what we can do to make positive changes.  (PS My routine has changed completely – maybe it’s time for an updated version of this post?)
  • Writing without payment – should we or shouldn’t we?
  • Thick-skinned – can rejection ever be positive?

Feel free to post links to some of your own useful posts below. Next time, I’ll be posting a list of recommended blog posts from other writers that offer further advice, inspiration and encouragement.

7 great books about writing

If you’re a writer, you’re also a reader. And as you read you become increasingly aware of how many possibilities there are as a writer. Reading makes you want to explore new styles, try new things, and write something as great as (no, even better than!) that last incredible book you devoured in one sitting. The one that made you burn the toast/turn up late to pick up the kids/cancel that dinner with friends you’d been looking forward to for months.

To improve your writing, reading is essential. But so is practice. You have to write as often as possible to progress. That’s a fact. And although there are no specific ‘rights and wrongs’ when it comes to plot/style/character etc, you do have to make sure that your writing does was it’s meant to: it has to convince and entertain. In short, your writing needs to transport your reader to another world that is wholly believable, one where they want to stay long enough to finish the whole book/story/poem.

Writing classes and workshops are a huge help; to get the most out of the experience, make sure you respect the writer that is taking the course and that it is pitched at a level that suits where you are in your writing career. But sometimes, geographical, financial or other constraints can make it difficult to commit to a workshop. Thankfully, there are some excellent books available that will help you improve in all areas of your writing – from grammar and punctuation, to holding narrative tension and creating compelling characters, to coping with rejection and solitude (and the best thing is, it’s combining two of your favourite things!).

Here are seven of my top choices…

on writing stephen kingOn Writing by Stephen King – part biography, part toolbox, this is one of the most readable, straight-talking and honest books on writing that you’ll ever read. The overall message is that practice, improving your skills, finding your own style and perseverance are the key to writing success. This may not seem like a revelation, but King’s wit, advice and fluid style really helps convey important messages without being overly didactic or patronising.

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee – although this book focuses on, the principles can be applied to any form of creative writing. Informative, insightful and downright impressive in its scope, McKee’s book is essential reading for anyone who wants to add magic to his or her writing. In case you need a bit more convincing, McKee’s former students include over 60 Academy Award Winners, 250 Academy Award Nominees, 170 Emmy Award Winners, 500+ Emmy Award Nominees (and the list goes on…)!

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss – although punctuation is a dreaded topic for many, there’s no escaping it. Yes, copy-editors can help you in this area but as the world of publishing grows increasingly competitive, it’s more important than ever that your manuscript is as polished as possible when you submit it to agents and publishers. Thankfully, Truss debunks the subject while making it accessible and fun (yes really!).

How to write Picture Books by Ann Whitford PaulWriting Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul – beautifully produced, this book offers all you need to see a picture book through from concept to completion. Through detailed examples of great children’s literature and step-by-step exercises designed to help you to improve your own writing, it is an invaluable addition to the bookshelf of any writer trying to break into the world of children’s picture books.


The Elements of Style
 by Strunk & White – Just like punctuation, grammar is an essential part of a writer’s toolbox and this book remains the best and the most concise. It covers everything you need to know in a slim, portable volume. Presenting the facts clearly and sensibly, this book considers elements of usage, composition and style – it’s a reliable all-rounder, so you won’t need another.

Creative Writing, A Practical Guide (3rdedition) by Julia Casterton – the reason I like this book is that it covers a wide range of topics across poetry and fiction, including narrative tension, developing characters, research techniques, performance and effective dialogue. The book also looks at a writer’s life; why people write, how they structure their day and cope with various aspects of being a writer. The structure is clear and the advice is sound; a great choice for those in the early stages of their writing journey.

mortificationMortification: Writers’ Tales of Their Public Shame by Robin Robertson – although it’s not about writing per se, this book plays an important role in helping writers cope with an inevitable part of their writing life: failure/rejection. Read about some of the nightmare book tours that famous writers have had to endure and enjoy the sense of camaraderie as you chuckle along with their blush-inducing tales.

If you know of any other noteworthy books on writing that may help other writers improve their craft, please let us know in the comments – we’d all really appreciate it! 

(Note, this article was originally written for writing.ie)

Writing goals, not holes

writing goals 2014It’s that time of year again when people start making resolutions and worry about sticking to them, but as far as I’m concerned, this is not healthy. Yes, it’s great to set yourself up for the year ahead with some ambitious dreaming – after all, without goals and deadlines it would be difficult to maintain regular, quality output – but not when said goals are to the detriment of your sanity or your confidence.

New Year’s resolutions are usually broken in a very short space of time because they are typically unrealistic and add too much pressure. They’re also usually fuelled by negativity – don’t do this or stop that or reduce something or other. They encourage you to look for flaws and pick holes in the baby steps you’re making towards progress.

Whether it be your waistline, the amount of time spent in front of the TV or your writing time that’s in focus, resolutions tend to add a negative feel to whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. And who can work well under those conditions? I certainly can’t.

But that doesn’t mean we should float into 2014 with a devil-may-care attitude because that won’t get us anywhere. It’s our life, dreams, ambitions, careers – we have to care. But what we don’t need to do is set ourselves up for immediate failure. Instead, I suggest we first take a look at what we’ve achieved over the past year, identify where improvements need to be made and also pinpoint areas that are going well that need to be stretched/challenged even further.

beautiful writingMy blog has been quiet for the last few weeks and that’s because I’ve been doing just that; assessing, evaluating and planning. I’ve eased myself into the new year and taken a step back to see exactly what I did well in 2013 and what I would like to improve upon. As a result, I’m raring to go and even though I was working and writing throughout the festive season, I feel refreshed and invigorated.

So what are my writing goals this year?

Securing a publishing deal is a given. I will continue to write novels and try to get them published until it eventually happens. And then I shall continue to write novels and try to secure a deal for them. And repeat. So the following 2014 writing goals are a sideline/addition to the novel writing and submission process.

  1. To expand the reach of my short stories with publication outside of UK & Ireland (I have researched a list of eligible journals and competitions, and recorded the deadlines & start dates in my diary)
  2. To build up a short story collection (the above goal will have an immediate, positive influence)
  3. To overcome the fear of performance (we all hate the sound of our own voice & reading my work in public makes me want to gibber in a corner. So I’m working on performance to music with my singer/songwriter husband – now we just need to get it out there!)

Three achievable and measurable goals that can run alongside the novel writing without detriment. Easy to monitor with opportunity for expansion; no room for picking holes, thank you very much.

What about you? What are your writing goals for 2014? 

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Some favourite Wordsparks so far…

Last week, I posted about the Wordspark writing prompts blog on writing.ie. This week, I’d like to share a few of my favourite responses from the readers so far…

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“Breathes life, takes life, one of life’s pleasures, dead, alive.”

by C. J. Black

(In response to Description:  Describe the sea in just ten words, for someone who has never seen it.)

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“Clouds fall, pluming to the wave’s tumbled height
Rolling, reflected, on the salt-damp bight”

by Guy le jeune

“Away in the distance is where I stand
My forgotten pieces strewn on the sand”

by Sean Marshall

(Both in response to a photo-inspired rhyming couplet Wordspark)

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“Those pesky giant walking broccoli plants were pushing at the kitchen window again, AND Sara was down to her last bottle of Sancerre.”

by irishherault

(The Prompt: to write an opening line based on a photo)

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We’d run down the Mill Lane, up the stairs and onto the bridge for the mail train from Strabane. We’d stand right over the line as the train hurled underneath and it was all smoke and steam and fury. Our faces would be black and when we got home me mother would give out stink. This one day we went down to catch the smoke and Eddie was there beside the tracks. Me mother said Eddie wasn’t all right—you’d see him standing on the lane, laughing at the sky. We climbed up to the bridge and we could still see Eddie just standing there, talking to nobody. In the distance we heard the clatter and saw the trail of smoke. Eddie jumped up on to the rails with his hands held above his head. We all shouted for him to get out of the way but he just stood there, yelling all sorts. The train screamed and whistled and squealed. We couldn’t look, but we couldn’t look away. There must have been the length of sweeping brush between the front of the engine and Eddie. That was the day when Eddie McCrae stopped the mail train from Strabane

by Guy le jeune

At the back of our house, across the fields, ran the train line. When Da passed on his way to Cork or Limerick he would beep the horn and we’d flash the light on and off to let him know we heard him. On his way home, he’d beep again to let Ma know he was on the way. Da didn’t drive a car, only a train.
We weren’t allowed near the railway line. Ma and Da would go mad when they found out we were up there. We went to pick blackberries, and the best ones were always along the railway. One day, Da passed on the train and saw us. He beeped the horn and put his fist up at us. We knew he was going to kill us when we got home so we stayed out for ages ’til we thought he’d be gone to bed. He always went to bed when he came home if he’d been driving through the night. He was still up when we got home and there was murder. When Da went to bed for a few hours, Mam still made jam with the blackberries we collected. My Ma made deadly jam.

by Patricia Nugent

(In response to: write a piece of flash fiction of less than 200 words, inspired by the postcard shown.)

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Last, but certainly not least, I’m including the opening paragraph of our festive-themed Wordspark of a short story under 1000 words. There’s a link at the end to the rest of the story, which I highly recommend: this piece received the most responses from other readers/writers.

Away in a Manger by Sinead O’Hart

I knew better than to turn on the main bathroom light – the noise of the fan alone would be enough to wake Simon up, and that was the last thing I wanted. I just wished I’d had the foresight to unwrap the thing beforehand, but I took it slowly and kept the rustling to a minimum. As I worked to open the packet, I kept the bathroom door open, just a crack, enough to hear him if he moved, but there wasn’t a sound from the bedroom besides my husband’s gentle breathing. Once I’d freed it from the wrapping, I closed the door to our ensuite as gently as I could, and just got on with it. I wondered, as I sat down, whether it was a marketable skill, this ability I had to pee accurately in the pitch darkness – I guessed it really was true about practice making perfect. How often had I done this, now? I’d long ago lost count. Read more…

(Please note: these favourites were originally posted on writing.ie)

Weekly dose of poetry, anyone?

ireland beach poetry

Ireland’s poetic landscapes

I have to applaud this excellent project – I can only imagine the work and effort that went into making it happen – every week, for a whole year!

How beautiful is this poem, The Clutch Handbag by Vona Groarke?

Huge thanks to The Poetry Project – poetry and art from Ireland.

Watch the Week 3 video accompanying the above poem here and then make sure you sign up to get your weekly fix.

The writing marathon

When you tell people that you just ran a marathon, they don’t ask whether you won. So why is it when you tell people you’ve written a book, they ask – where is it published?

The excitement of National Novel Writing Month inspired this post – as well as a trip to Dublin last month which saw me caught up in the crowd of the Dublin Marathon.

On your marks…

Every year, millions of people undertake the challenge to write a book in 30 days. They’re charged up with ideas, advice, pep talks and caffeine, knowing that what’s ahead of them is a big undertaking, with no ‘reward’ other than the satisfaction of having done it. And they’re geared up to help each other along the way.

The Dublin Marathon is the same. I saw people fly over the finish line, like they’d just finished a 5k race. Others hobbled or limped, but got there with smiles. Some gave up.

One of the most amazing things I saw was a pair of runners nearing the finish line who backtracked to support a man – I assume it was a running buddy – who was too exhausted to run any more. They literally carried him over the finish line.

There was also a vibrant crowd cheering the runners on, competitors turning back after finishing to lend extra support, jubilant pace keepers and roadside drummers providing a bit of inspiration. Like Nano, it was an almost tribal atmosphere.

I’ve not yet run a marathon (watch this space) but I first tried NanoWrimo several years ago and succeeded. Since then I’ve taken that model and use it to write every first draft, though not necessarily during the month of November. (Note: I’m being kind to myself there…the result is more like a draft zero, a below-par initial draft, but I find it easier to work with a lump of words.) And that’s how my novels happen.

But even though the Nano model is my standard approach, there’s no denying it’s a challenge.

Like the Dublin Marathon runners, many NanoWrimo entrants succeed, but just as many, if not more, give up. Life gets in the way or lack of motivation interferes. Sometimes the uphill struggle to stay inspired gets too much. Fair play for trying, everyone but…

What’s the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t?

As far as I can tell, it’s pure determination. We keep going when the odds seem against us. We rely on sheer will power at times. We take the knocks and merely stumble, not fall. And we do it together because that tribal atmosphere – whatever your goals – really counts.

Let’s also consider the idea of measuring success. If you’ve run a marathon, it doesn’t mean you would expect to enter the Olympics – and no one else would expect it either. Likewise, just because you’ve written a book, you can’t expect it to get published right away. Writing a draft of a book is just the first step. In fact, writing several drafts of a book is still ‘early stages’ in any writing career. There’s a lot more practice, training and improvement to get through. And if this is the first book you’ve written, it probably won’t be good enough to secure you that elusive book deal.

So enjoy the process for what it is; an achievement in itself. You got there. You wrote 50,000 words in a month. You learned something. Even if you couldn’t complete the NanoWrimo challenge this time around, if you’re serious about writing, the experience will inform your writing in the future in some way.

But most importantly, once the challenge is over, try to keep in mind that sense of togetherness.

When another person asks you about your book or congratulates you on something you’ve written, when you run an extra half mile or finally get up that steep hill, when you get shortlisted or accepted for publication, or when you shave a few seconds off your running time – doesn’t it feel better when you have someone to share it with?

Next time you’re listening to someone talk about their goals – whatever they may be – take interest, ask a question. If you’re amazed or impressed, show it! This could be all that person needs to keep going and not give up.

How will you get a step closer to your goals today? And how will you help someone get closer to theirs?

Tortoises live longer than cheetahs

“Tortoises live longer than cheetahs”

This was the great advice given to me recently by @Nerin_, the lovely (and very energetic) brains behind krank.ie.

One of the major problems any writer trying to establish a writing career suffers from is impatience. I know because I suffer from it in abundance and have to fight on a daily basis to keep it in check. Yes, it may seem great to be sending out multiple submissions every month and to be completing a book or two a year, but only if it’s beneficial. Could all this activity be proving detrimental to your writing career?

I’m not suggesting that you don’t keep writing. That would be insane! Writers need to write, end of story. But take a look at what you’re churning out and answer me this question: Are you giving enough time for your writing to mature?

In the beginning, I certainly wasn’t. A few years ago, desperate to get published and to have my work seen, I was throwing out submissions all over the place. Now, I’d cringe to see some of them out there. It’s a bit like the first novel you write – the one that you should pack into a drawer and attach a chain and padlock to before storing in a vault somewhere. Whatever you write needs time to develop, mature and improve, but lets face it: some of what you write is going to be bad.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but some of those gems are mediocre. Disconnected. Unworkable. Beyond saving. You will have learned something by going through the process, but not everything you write is publishable. As writers, we need to learn to distinguish between what’s suitable for publication and what is simply a useful writing exercise that’s for personal use only. No matter how well you write, not everything you produce should be shared in the public domain. But this shouldn’t be seen as a negative issue: it’s part of the process that professional writers have to go through on their way to being…well, professional.

So, if you’re worrying about a lack of submissions, even though you’re writing every minute you can, stop being hard on yourself. It’s part of your chosen profession. Put your energies into writing as often as you can, make sure that your work is of a high standard, and enjoy the process. Don’t concern yourself with the result – simply enjoy what you do. Write for you, with high standards in mind. That way, you’ll eventually end up with a store of submittable pieces, without the added stress.

Remember: be a tortoise and don’t rush to submit your work. With a little space, you’re likely to spot a few areas of improvement, so be prepared and start your work early. Mark out competition deadlines early in the year and get a head start before letting your masterpiece sit for a while. Alternatively, if there’s a theme attached, look for one of your incomplete stories or poems to edit nearer the time. But take your time and make sure you’re 100% sure it’s your very best work before sending. You may end up with less submissions circulating, but…

Won’t you feel better if the work you’re showing to editors has had the time and attention it deserves?

(with thanks to @nerin_ for inspiring this post)

Broken homes don’t mean broken lives

Nice clean bear looking for a reading partner

“Why do you write for children?

This was the interesting – and completely unexpected – question that I was confronted with last week. It’s not a shocking question by any means; it’s just that writing for children is what I do, but, like any other career I’ve had, I’ve never thought about why. I’ve never even considered writing for children as an occupation that needs explaining (which probably says a lot right away).

Caught unawares, I was amazed at my reply. Not only could I answer without thinking about it, this was my immediate response:

“I adore children’s literature. A love of reading is the best gift I ever received and I want to foster it in others.”

OK, not the most eloquent, but this answer stuck in my head afterwards because I wondered whether, upon reflection, it was really true. You see, writing’s not like a regular job where you turn up and muddle through – even if it’s a bad day – because you know you’ll get paid. To be a writer, you have to love what you do. Always. Fact.

But do we know why we write? And why we write what we write?

I have many ideas which would make excellent adult books, but every time I sit down to write them, the words automatically transform into children’s fiction. I love every minute spent working on my manuscripts – from the initial concept and free-flow writing, to the research and editing – but I’m sure I’d love every minute of writing adult fiction too. After all, I adore reading it. So why does this happen?

Looking at my response, I was surprised to find that the true, honest reason really was lurking there. Yes, I love children’s literature and yes, falling in love with reading was the best gift I ever received. But the final part of my reply is the crux of the matter.

“I want to foster it in others.”

Whatever a child’s background, situation or level of learning, I want to help them enjoy reading. It’s that simple. I won’t go into detail – ‘misery lit’ is not my thing – but my upbringing was far from usual, not at all pleasant and certainly not something I’d ever wish anyone else to go through.

Yet the brutal truth is; many children throughout the world are trapped in abusive homes or dangerous environments. And even though there is more awareness, leading to more support facilities, the sad fact is that these children are still trapped, their experiences limited.

But a broken home doesn’t have to lead to a broken life: even children in vulnerable situations can be the masters of their own destinies. And as far as I can see, education is the key factor.

This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in a classroom learning facts. Especially since, for many of these children, that environment won’t suit at all. But if a child can take control of their own learning – can see the value and relevance of it for themselves – then that can make a major difference to their whole lives. This may sound cliche, but it’s true.

I’ve heard people say that everyone can remember one inspirational teacher that set them on their path in life; well I had many. As a child, no matter what was happening around me, books were my haven. They showed me other places, ideas, attitudes and possibilities that no one else was going to share. They opened worlds that were otherwise unavailable.

Old friends and teachers

I was moved by the kindness of the Old Gentleman in The Railway Children and admired the tomboyish Jo March in Little Women. I dreamt about joining the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and Huckleberry Finn. Outraged by the mistreatment of Celie in The Colour Purple, I was also strangely comforted by the idea that not everyone else’s life was easy. I fell in love with Santiago’s passion and determination as he fought to bring his great marlin home. And I loved and hated Scrooge in equal measure.

Whatever I wanted to know, to experience, feel; it was all there, neatly tucked away in a few pages of my own private world. And the beauty of it was, every time I finished a book, it would lead me somewhere else; a recommended read, another book by the same author, a completely different genre which conveyed similar messages.

There is a wealth of current and classic children’s literature out there and I’d love to add to it.

“I adore children’s literature. A love of reading is the best gift I ever received. It saved me and I want to foster it in others.”

Last week, I surprised myself with this answer, and after investigating it further, I’ve surprised myself even more. But the findings were so personal, I was in two minds whether I should even post this at all.

But I always believe we should do everything with honesty and with as much passion as possible. So, that’s why I went ahead with the post. And for that reason also, I will continue to write every day.